Cubs

The professional: Bobby Scales fights for his place

410515.jpg

The professional: Bobby Scales fights for his place

Sunday, March 13, 2011Posted: 5:25 p.m. Updated: 8:20 p.m.

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. If things had worked out differently, maybe Bobby Scales would have spent this weekend in Japan, trying to contact concerned friends and family to assure them that he was all right.

The haunting images flashed on a flat-screen TV almost directly above Scales locker on Friday in the Cubs clubhouse. Players, team personnel and reporters silently watched CNNs coverage of the earthquake and tsunami that could push the death toll past 10,000. That morning, Scales received confirmation from Micah Hoffpauir that he was safe.

I dont care who you are, where youre from, what language you speak thats awful, Scales said. What (else) can you say about it?

Every player has a small window to maximize his earning power and support his family. Hoffpauir who appeared in 162 games with the Cubs across the past three seasons is trying to capitalize with the Nippon Ham Fighters. At the age of 33, Scales cant ignore the possibility of playing abroad.

Absolutely, Scales said. If I was given the opportunity, I would love to have gone (to Japan). Their process is very intricate and they do a lot of homework on guys they bring over, so apparently I didnt pass the test.

But Scales isnt the type to wonder what could have been. The Cubs think so highly of him that they would like to hire him for their front office as soon as he retires. Hes not ready to play along with that idea just yet. A utility guy likes to be appreciated, but not taken for granted.

Its a flattering thing to say, Scales said. Its good that people think of you as a good baseball guy and an intelligent person and someone that they would like to work with in the future. (But) Im still a player and I still want to play and I still feel like I can help a team win games. Until that changes, thats my (mindset).

Scales went to the University of Michigan and cant wait to watch ESPNs Fab Five documentary. Its not hard to get him talking college basketball. But he doesnt want to be a Cinderella story.

It took Scales 11 seasons and more than 1,000 games in the minors before he made his big-league debut in 2009.

Hes hitting .438 this spring, and has put on a show for the players brought over from the minor-league complex for a split-squad weekend. In two games, he went 4-for-8 with two RBI and three runs scored. He helped turn five double plays on Sunday as a second baseman.

Its encouraging for the young guys, said Cubs bench coach Pat Listach, who once managed Scales at Triple-A Iowa. (They) see a guy who didnt get to the big leagues until he was over 30 and is still fighting and battling.

These guys have got to take notice of it and say, Hey, we need to work just like that. This guys in his 30s and still doing it.

Jay Jackson, a 23-year-old pitcher, credits Scales for showing him how to manage his time and demonstrating the way you should act in the clubhouse, essentially what it takes to be a professional.

Bobbys kind of taken me under his wing, Jackson said. I couldnt ask for any better teachers than I had last year, with him and Micah Hoffpauir at Triple-A. It was a blast, just picking up little things here and there. If when I do make it, Ill know the proper way to do things.

Cubs executives also notice those leadership traits. Again Scales is working on a minor-league deal. He gets why the media tries to find some deeper meaning to it all. But the way he sees it, he still has a great job and a supportive wife. Why wouldnt he be here?

I know how old I am everybody knows how old I am, Scales said. But Im very fortunate to stay away from injury. Im of the mind that youre as young as you tell yourself you are. Age is nothing but a number. Ive been smart enough to keep myself in shape.

If it doesnt work out here, then hopefully it will work out somewhere else.

PatrickMooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. FollowPatrick on Twitter @CSNMooneyfor up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

If Rangers sign Nicholas Castellanos, it could lead them to Kris Bryant after

If Rangers sign Nicholas Castellanos, it could lead them to Kris Bryant after

After losing out on free agent third baseman Anthony Rendon, the Texas Rangers have spoken to agent Scott Boras about Cubs free agent outfielder Nicholas Castellanos, according to Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News.

Castellanos played third with the Detroit Tigers from 2014-17, but considering he posted a -64 Defensive Runs Saved in four seasons, he won’t be moving back there. Interestingly, however, Castellanos is willing to consider playing first base, according to Grant.

The Cubs — who are reportedly still pursuing Castellanos — obviously would be affected if the 27-year-old signs with Texas, as they'll lose one of their most productive players from 2019. But besides that, Castellanos landing with the Rangers would impact the Kris Bryant trade market.

The Rangers are looking for a consolation plan at third base after missing out on Rendon. They have a three-year offer on the table for Donaldson, according to Grant, and signing him would only entail money. The same cannot be said about acquiring a third baseman via trade, like Kris Bryant, who would acquire several assets.

But if Donaldson doesn’t sign with the Rangers, they’ll be more inclined to pursue Bryant. Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said at the Winter Meetings they’ll address third base this offseason, and the Cubs third baseman would be the best option left, if the Rangers don’t land Donaldson. That is, unless Texas calls the Rockies about Nolan Arenado.

Daniels pointed to how the Rangers are unlikely to trade for a player with only a few years of team control left (like Bryant) without making other major additions.

“There are some trade options [that] would have quite frankly made more sense in our mind if we had landed the free agents at the top of our list,” Daniels said. “I don’t love the idea of half measures. I don’t love the idea of taking a chunk out of the system if it doesn’t really make sense. Trading for somebody with a year or two of control if the club is a little more filled out.”

If the Rangers land Castellanos, a pursuit of Bryant could follow. The same can be said if they sign Donaldson, even, thanks to Bryant’s positional versatility.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams Cubs games easily on your device.

With Winter Meetings over, Cubs gearing up for 'trading season'

With Winter Meetings over, Cubs gearing up for 'trading season'

SAN DIEGO — What a difference five years makes. 

At the 2014 MLB Winter Meetings — the last time the offseason spectacle was in San Diego — the Cubs had just tabbed Joe Maddon their new manager and spent the week trading for Miguel Montero, working out a free-agent deal with Jon Lester and then celebrating those big successes.

This time around, the "big" move the Cubs made during the Winter Meetings was selecting pitcher Trevor Megill in the Rule 5 Draft Thursday morning. 

But the bigger news was the moves the Cubs didn't make — they have not yet shaken up the core of the roster with a significant trade.

All week long in Ron Burgundy's hometown, the Cubs front office reiterated the team is not shopping at the top — or even the middle — of the free agent market and pointed to how free agency had to see more movement before they could jump into the fray on the trade market. At least they aren't having to wait as long as normal for free agency, with the biggest names off the board this week in an offseason moving much quicker than the last couple that extended into February.

That's setting the stage for a potentially busy January for the Cubs.

"In general, there's been a focus on free agency, which is totally logical," Jed Hoyer said Thursday morning. "I think there's still some really good players in the free agent market. We're not there yet. There's still some guys that teams are focused on, but I do think that the way things are moving — traditionally, Christmas was always a boundary for free agents, so to speak. Everybody wanted to be signed by Christmas. 

"Maybe we're going back to that. That would certainly leave the rest of December after that and January would be more of a trading season. So maybe we're back to that traditional calendar, I'm not sure. If the primary free agents are off the market, that definitely clarifies the dynamic for different teams."

So mark your calendars for January as potential "trading season."

What Hoyer is saying makes sense. Anthony Rendon is off the free agent market (reaching a deal with Joe Maddon's Angels), but there's still a very good third baseman available in Josh Donaldson. Why wouldn't teams continue to try to sign him and only commit money and a compensation draft pick instead of giving up a haul to the Cubs in exchange for Kris Bryant?

Right now, it appears the Rangers, Nationals, Dodgers and Braves are still in need of a third baseman and the Phillies might be, as well. Donaldson is only one person, so depending on how the rest of the trade market plays out, there could conceivably be three or four teams bidding on Bryant.

"As the free agents go off the market, it clarifies things for us and for other teams," Hoyer said. "I wouldn't say that moves us closer [to a move], but I think it definitely provides clarity. ... It feels to me like continued action in free agency in the days to come and early next week. 

"It seems like there's probably some free agent deals that are closer to fruition and they're not ready to be announced yet, but it seems like there's a lot of activity. I think as those things get finalized, it will clarify the trade market. There's gonna be teams that still want to improve after free agents are generally off the board."

Whether any team ends up meeting the Cubs' asking price is another matter entirely. Bryant is one of the game's best players, a fantastic role model and is well-liked within the clubhouse and fanbase. Plus, he's under team control for the next two years for somewhere between $40-$45 million (assuming he does not win his service time grievance). 

If the Cubs don't get a franchise-altering haul, they aren't trading Bryant. They won't make a move just for change's sake, as Theo Epstein insisted this week.

Nothing appears imminent on the trade front in any capacity — with Bryant, Willson Contreras or any other player — but signs still point to some sort of major shakeup to the roster this winter. 

Epstein said he would be fine heading into spring training with the "status quo" on the roster because he likes the talent of the players and the fresh dynamic created by David Ross, a new coaching staff and a revamped group behind-the-scenes.

But make no mistake — the Cubs' ideal winter would not be migrating down to Mesa, Ariz., with a status quo roster. The ideal winter would include shaking up the roster to fortify current weaknesses and improve the long-term health of the franchise beyond the 2021 season.

"We've been talking in a lot of hypotheticals — if we get this guy, if we get that guy. And we also always circle back to with the roster we have right now — status quo — because it's hard to acquire players," Epstein said. "So I'd feel good. I'd feel like we'd have one of the most talented teams in the league, but that we'd have some areas of exposure where we'd need things to go right. But we'd have a lot of guys in place that have a lot of potential and things could really break our way and we'd be fairly dynamic. 

"But leave no doubt, there are areas where we want to acquire players to address our weaknesses and put us in the best possible position to succeed. Status quo is not a bad option, but we're obviously out there looking to make changes and change the dynamic and improve and grow."